Big BIG report over at The Comics Reporter as Bart Beaty lays smack down on David Hajdu’s THE TEN CENT PLAGUE:
I read The Ten-Cent Plague with great avidity. Hajdu is a compelling storyteller, and his interviews with some of the key players at the time add important shadings to our understanding of the period. There are places where the book really excels, not the least of which is in the important research on the comic book burnings that began in the 1940s, an area that is often mentioned but seldom dealt with in the depth that Hajdu brings to the issue.
At the same time, however, the book has certain shortcomings, and I’d like to address these over a few posts.
Few posts indeed. Beaty is only up to number two, with more promised!
Related: Eddie Campbell comments, and Steve Bissette comments in the comments.
This particular showdown has become one of the great myths of the comic book (I’m using myth correctly to mean ‘sacred story’ rather than ‘falsehood,’ the usual debased meaning given to the word these days). I saw the same thing in Eisner/Miller (Dark Horse 2005)
I think Gary Groth has made a similar argument, and I thought it was silly then as well. The problem with super-hero comics isn’t that the quality is bad. I mean, there’s *lots* of dreadful stuff that have a huge fan base (things like, oh, Scooby-Doo cartoons…or Rolling Stone concerts….or Alicia Keys albums….) Quality isn’t objective, of course, but using any aesthetic criteria, you’re going to find that sometimes quality and popularity are directly related, sometimes they’re inversely related, and sometimes they don’t seem to have any relationship at all. The problem with super-hero comics isn’t that they’re “bad” (though I agree that many of them are bad); it’s that, bad or good, they’re aimed at an audience which is increasingly insular, and that, as a result, the genre doesn’t really look sustainable in the long, or even medium, term.
Tom Brevoort approaches the same thing from a different angle:
Here’s one of the things I’ve realized about this business: it’s all cyclic. The same patterns repeat themselves again and again, from generation to generation–not the specific instances, but the overall shape of people’ reactions.
I’m still reacting in part to some of the people I spoke to at the New York Comic Convention, as well as the e-mails that we’ve been getting. But it’s really driven home this idea of cycling.
For example: it’s not great secret that there are still people upset about the changes to Spider-Man. Fair enough, But in the space of a day or two, I got five-or-so comments lamenting the elimination of Spidey’s organic webbing, and the fact that there’s been no mention of the additional powers he gained during “The Other.”
Which comes as a bit of a shock, frankly, because the overwhelming majority of the reactions we saw at the time those two stories came out were decidedly negative! Nobody seemed to like the organic webbing, and people wrote long treatises about how Peter creating mechanical web-shooters was better, because this showcased his science skills. But just a couple short years later, we go back to the mechanical web-shooters, and it’s like we fire-bombed something.
Finally, Brian Hibbs sums up DC’s current output and it doesn’t look good:
The first real signs, for me, was “One Year Later”, which was about as unmanaged and poorly fitting of an idea as anything I can think of. Virtually every DCU book took a sharp downwards spike in the wake of OYL, as the readership didn’t understand what was going on in the books they followed, and given no real incentive to pick up new ones.
That could have been managed had it not been for COUNTDOWN, “the spine of the DC Universe” — a spine that virtually no one enjoyed, and that had what seemed to be a billion-jillion awful tie ins and crossovers and “spin outs” all predicated on branding and ideas that no one (not even, it seems) the creators were especially enthused by.